UK sugar tax fails to affect consumer behaviour

Does taxing sugary products incentivise people to cut them down? New research says no
Does taxing sugary products incentivise people to cut them down? New research says no

Retailers and other bodies campaigning against a sugar tax said that there was little evidence to suggest consumers would turn away from their favourite soft drinks. It seems those proclamations are being proved right in the UK currently.



24 August 2018

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The UK’s sugar tax has had minimal impact on consumer behaviour since its implementation in April this year, according to new research published by Nielsen.

According to the report, 62% of UK shoppers claim to have not changed their consumption behaviour in any way post-sugar tax, and only one fifth are checking sugar content on packages more frequently since the tax has come into effect.

Nielsen’s compares results from respondents prior to the Soft Drinks Industry Levy coming into effect on 6 April 2018 and now.

11% of shoppers claimed they planned to stop drinking sugary soft drinks prior to the tax; this number has fallen to just 1% post-tax. The number of people who said they would continue to buy sugary soft drinks also, surprisingly,  grew post-tax, increasing from 31% in February to 44% in June.

WHat’s even more interesting, these shocking numbers follow a pre-tax survey in which a majority (54%) supported the tax and supported its expansion.

Aylin Ceylan, Consumer and Shopper Partner, Nielsen said that despite the numbers, sugar intake is still a major health concern for the majority of British people.  “Although the sugar tax hasn’t been as drastic as anticipated,” Ceylan said, “sugar continues to be the number one health concern for the fourth consecutive year and initiatives like the Soft Drinks Industry Levy doubtless contribute to furthering awareness.

“While we haven’t seen any significant changes in consumer habits, we have seen manufacturers adapt accordingly. The average sugar content has been steadily decreasing in key FMCG categories such as carbonated drinks and breakfast cereals.”




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